It’s been four years since the Colusa RedHawks and Williams Yellowjackets last faced each other on the gridiron, but last Friday night’s meeting was testament to the power of a rivalry as the two teams engaged in their most exciting contest of the season to date.
Battling under the lights at McCarl Field, the visiting RedHawks, who had outscored their opponents 111-15 in their first three contests, emerged victorious 21-12, but got all they could handle from a ‘Jacket squad that put up a spirited fight.
It was a shaky start for both teams, however, as the first quarter passed without a score and was marked by penalties and some sloppy play.
Williams drew first blood, less than a minute into the second period, when they completed a six-play, 60-yard drive that was capped with an 18-yard burst into the end zone by senior Michael Cervantes.
Although the ‘Jackets were unable to convert the two-point try, the series was significant in that for the first time this season, Williams was able to gain significant yardage on the ground.
On the ensuing kickoff, it seemed as the Yellowjackets were then poised for more after the RedHawks fumbled and Williams recovered at the Colusa 20 yard line.
Yet two ‘Jacket penalties stalled the drive at the 17, where the RedHawks took over on downs.
At this juncture, the Colusa game plan changed somewhat as they put the ball in the hands of quarterback Emanuel Frias, who from that point on was a man on a mission.
As the RedHawks embarked on an 87-yard drive, aided by a big penalty against Williams, Frias carried the ball seven times, accounting for 45 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown run, the first of three for the senior on the night.
After Colusa’s Joe Maciel tacked on the extra point, making the score 7-6, it was the ‘Jackets’ turn to fumble the kickoff and give the ball to the RedHawks at the 30, with a short field in front of them.
But the Yellowjacket defense stepped up and held, leaving just a one-point difference between the teams at intermission.
Still, the RedHawks receiving the second half kickoff would extend the lead in their first possession, as Frias converted a critical third down pass to sophomore Payton Humphreys for a gain of 38 yards to keep the drive alive.
After another 15-yard penalty on the Yellowjackets, Frias made a second trip into the end zone, setting the score at 14-6, with the addition of a Maciel extra point.
There would be no more scoring in the third period as both defenses stiffened, but Williams showed resilience in the fourth quarter by putting together a 65-yard drive, culminating when Omar Lomeli found Jayr Ramirez for a nine-yard touchdown, to fire up the crowd and bring the ‘Jackets within two points at 14-12.
On the RedHawks’ next drive, the Yellowjackets looked to be making a stand, but after a fumble, the resulting scrum saw Colusa retain possession, after some discussion by the officials.
It would be the following play that proved to be the backbreaker for Williams, as Frias showed off his ability to throw the deep ball, connecting with Nick Price, who had gotten behind the defense for a 63-yard gain.
Frias would do the rest, running the ball to the goal line and then taking it in from one yard out to seal the 21-12 victory.
It was an impressive performance by Frias, who gained 106 yards on 18 carries and scored three times, while throwing for an additional 93 yards, which drew praise from Coach Mikey Badaluco.
“He’s a leader. We knew that in any type of tough situation, we were going to call his number, and tonight he put us on his back and carried us,” said Badaluco, who has the RedHawks off to a 3-0 start.
For Williams, despite the loss, it was the type of performance they had been looking for from this group of athletes, according to Coach Jeff Lemus.
“This is what we have been wanting,” Lemus said. “We played against a very good team and hung with them. We moved some guys around and had our best game yet running the ball. We played well, and I’m very proud.”
While Colusa now gears up for a showdown at home against Pierce Friday night, Williams (0-3) looks for its first win when Lindhurst comes to town. ■